Trust your team and pass the baton

handing over the batonWatching the relay team in the World Athletics Championship last weekend reminded me of a recent meeting with a law firm, when we were chatting about the solicitors and partners trusting their team.

A trusted team is one of my 5 key components of a 5 star customer experience.

And here’s why…

When we have an excellent relationship with our customers it can be difficult to let go. We feel guilty or that we have an obligation to that customer to look after them; to give them a personal service. And we are potentially worried they won’t receive the same degree of recognition if we delegate some aspects of the customer relationship to our team.

But in doing so we could actually be diluting our efforts and giving a poorer customer experience. We need to put our trust in others around us and delegate some of that responsibility. Just as an athlete would in handing over the baton to his or her teammates.

Here’s what’s happening currently in this law firm. If the solicitor is not at their desk when a client phones them directly all they get is their voicemail. Irrespective of their reason for calling the call by-passes junior solicitors and secretaries. So the client is left hanging.

Meanwhile the junior is missing opportunities for his or her development. Could this be something that they could resolve quite easily? And what is the secretary doing during this time? Presumably he or she has access to the client’s files, and might well manage the solicitor’s diary.

From the client’s perspective if all they need is the answer to a simple query – such as the start date of a contract, whether or not you have received some documentation, or to confirm the time and place of a forthcoming meeting – is there really a need for them to speak directly to the solicitor?

The result is a frustrated client, a junior who is probably feeling undervalued, and a secretary who is being underutilised. Plus of course the extra burden on the solicitor to return the client’s call… who by now is no longer available, so they start playing telephone tag! Is this what he or she is really paid to do?

Even if the solicitor is the only person who can deal with the client’s query I’m quite certain there’ll be instances where the secretary or junior could be doing some of the background work to make it quicker and easier for the solicitor to deal with the client’s query or request.

And what happens when the solicitor is away for a few days or even a couple of weeks’ holiday? If the client only has one point of contact, who do they go to then?

Of course this type of scenario is not limited to law firms!

Whatever your business I’m sure you have a good relationship with your customers and want to do everything in your power to sustain this. But how much do you trust your team to take on some of that responsibility?

Ah, but… I hear some say.

■ “My customer trusts me and expects to deal with me
They expect to always deal with you because that’s what you’ve always given them. If there are never given the chance to speak to your team that will never change. Set expectations early on with your customers so they know who is the best person to speak to when. Introduce your customers to your team so they know who they’re dealing with and build trust (and their expectations) early on.

■ “It takes too much time to explain, I can do it quicker
In the short-term yes, but in the longer term if you delegate you are saving time to attend to more important things to add value for your customer. Having simple systems in place for routine queries means you might only have to invest the time once.

■ “They aren’t yet capable
And never will be unless you start incorporating delegation and trust as part of your people’s development plans

■ “No-one, except me, is up to it
Maybe, but are you being too much of a perfectionist? Does the task need such a degree of excellence? If not, maybe someone can do the job adequately in less time

■ “They don’t have the authority or licence to do that
Everyone has to start somewhere so this doesn’t mean you give them everything to do but start getting them involved in some of the more complex issues, that you are then able to sign off or rubber stamp. (None of us would ever pass our driving test if we weren’t able to actually get out on the road and drive; it just needs plenty of practice and handholding along the way until ready.)

■ “If they are left to deal with someone else my customer won’t be happy and I’ll lose their respect
You’ll upset customers more and lose more respect by delaying your response and by not devoting enough time to the areas of expertise they’re paying you for because you are too distracted by the routine issues

So in regard to having an obligation to that customer to look after them and give them a personal service – yes you should. But you won’t be able to if you get sucked into tasks that don’t require your level of expertise or experience.

Trust your team to deal with these so that you can be focusing on the more important aspects of your relationship that only you can do.

Just like the athlete in a relay you can’t run all four legs.  You have to trust your team and pass them the baton.




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